George Pell says he's ASHAMED of church's handling of child sex abuse

Cardinal George Pell says he is ASHAMED of the Catholic Church’s handling of child sex abuse scandals – calling it a ‘cancer’ that haunts him – and claims he has seen the damage it has done to victims

  • George Pell admitted he is ashamed of his church’s handling of child sex abuse
  • The 78-year-old spoke about the church’s failings in interview with Andrew Bolt
  • The cardinal was released from jail on Tuesday after convictions were quashed 

Cardinal George Pell said he is ashamed of the Catholic Church’s handling of child sex abuse scandals and compared it to ‘cutting out a cancer’.   

The 78-year-old spoke candidly about the church’s failings following his release from prison in a sit down interview with Sky News Australia presenter Andrew Bolt.

In a preview for the interview, Bolt asked the cardinal whether he was ashamed of the church and how it dealt with child sex abuse scandals. 

‘Yes. There are two levels. One is the crimes itself and then the treating it so inadequately for so long,’ Cardinal Pell said.

‘It’s like cutting out a cancer. I think, please God, we’ve got rid of it.’

Cardinal Pell said he condemns ‘these sort of activities’, adding he has seen the damage it has done to victims.   

‘One of the things that grieves me is the suggestion that I’m anti-victim, or not sufficiently sympathetic,’ he said.

The interview, which will air on Tuesday at 7pm, also sheds light on Cardinal Pell’s experiences in jail – where he befriended a number of inmates, including a convicted murderer.

During his first days in freedom, Cardinal Pell wrote a letter to The Weekend Australian about his suffering and the coronavirus pandemic.

‘I have just spent 13 months in jail for a crime I didn’t commit, one disappointment after another,’ he wrote.

‘I knew God was with me, but I didn’t know what He was up to, although I realised he has left all of us free.’

Cardinal Pell wrote that ‘every person suffers’ and will be confronted by a series of questions, including ‘what should I do?’ and ‘why did this happen to me?’

Cardinal George Pell said he is ashamed of the Catholic Church’s handling of child sex abuse scandals and compared it to ‘cutting out a cancer’. Pictured: Pell arrives at the Seminary Of The Good Shepherd in Sydney on Wednesday

He explained that Christians can cope with suffering better than atheists can explain the happiness of life, adding that ‘Christians see Christ in everyone who suffers’.   

‘And many, most understand the direction we are heading when it is pointed out that the only son of God did not have an easy run and suffered more than his share. Jesus redeemed us and we can redeem our suffering by joining it to His and offering it to God,’ Pell said. 

Pell also wrote about the global suffering brought by the COVID-19 crisis and referred to the Spanish flu pandemic as well as the Black Death in the 14 century.

He said there is a new capacity to fight the disease intelligently and curb its spread. 

Writing to the sexual abuse scandals which have rocked the Catholic Church, Pell insisted they have painfully cut out a ‘moral cancer’. 

The cardinal won his appeal bid to the High Court on Tuesday and walked free from Barwon Prison, near Geelong, after more than 400 days behind bars. 

The 78-year-old travelled from Melbourne to Sydney on Wednesday stopping briefly at a petrol station 

The 78-year-old travelled from Melbourne to Sydney on Wednesday stopping briefly at a petrol station to buy a phone charger and newspapers.

During the pit stop, the cardinal told media he was ‘very pleased’ to be free.

He apologised for not dressing better, saying he wasn’t expecting company on the trip.

‘Before you arrived, it was better here,’ he told media at the service station when asked about life behind bars, before adding his prison experience was ‘not too bad’. 

He also asked reporters to adhere to social distancing and not get too close to him.

Cardinal Pell arrived at the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Homebush, in Sydney’s west, at about 9pm on Wednesday.

The 78-year-old spoke candidly about the church’s failings following his release from prison in a sit down interview with Sky News Australia presenter Andrew Bolt. Pell is pictured in 2008

Following the overturning of his child sex convictions, Cardinal Pell released a statement saying the serious injustice he suffered had been remedied.

‘I hold no ill will to my accused, I do not want my acquittal to add to the hurt and bitterness so many feel; there is certainly hurt and bitterness enough,’ he said on Tuesday. 

The 78-year-old said his trial was not a referendum on the Catholic Church or how Australian church authorities dealt with paedophilia. 

‘The point was whether I had committed these awful crimes, and I did not,’ he said. 

In December 2018, a jury found Cardinal Pell guilty of five charges, accepting evidence of one complainant that the then-Archbishop of Melbourne had sexually abused him and another 13-year-old choirboy at St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996.

One of the choirboys died in 2014, prompting the other to bring the allegations to police.

In an initial trial, a jury was unable to reach a verdict. The second jury was unanimous in its decision. An appeal to Victoria’s Court of Appeal last year was unsuccessful.

Cardinal Pell has always maintained his innocence, a fact noted in the High Court’s 26-page decision.

From allegations to sentence to freedom: A timeline of the George Pell case


* Pell appointed Archbishop of Melbourne by Pope John Paul II

* Pell sexually abuses two 13-year-old choirboys after a Sunday solemn mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral, according to a later jury finding.

* A second indecent act is committed by Pell against one of the choirboys in a corridor at the Cathedral, the same jury found.


* Pell served as Archbishop of Sydney, 2001-2014.

* He has created a cardinal in 2003.


* The Herald-Sun reports Pell is being investigated by Victoria Police’s Sano taskforce for ‘multiple offences’ committed while he was a priest in Ballarat and Archbishop of Melbourne.

* Pell says the allegations are ‘without foundation and utterly false’ and calls for an inquiry into how the police investigation became public.

* Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton asks the anti-corruption watchdog to investigate the leak, but denies it came from police.

* Pell gives evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Ballarat.

* Under Vatican rules, Pell gives Pope Francis his resignation on his 75th birthday, as is customary. It is not accepted.

* Victoria Police investigators hand over to the state’s Office of Public Prosecutions a brief of evidence on allegations of sexual abuse by Pell.

* Officers travel to Rome to interview Pell over the abuse claims. He voluntarily participates in the interview.


* Police present their final brief of evidence to the Office of Public Prosecutions to consider charges.

* Prosecutors give police the green light to charge Pell.

JUNE 2017

* Pell is charged with multiple counts of historical child sex offences.

* He denies the charges and vows to clear his name.

* Lawyers for Pell appear in Melbourne Magistrates Court.

* Pell takes leave from his Vatican finance chief role to fight the charges.

JULY 2017

* Pell returns to Australia.

* He hires top barrister Robert Richter QC.

* Supporters set up a fund to help Pell fight the charges. 


MARCH 2018

* Prosecutors drop one of the charges against Pell.

* A month-long committal hearing begins to determine if Pell will face trial. 

* Prosecutors withdraw more charges. 

* Mr Richter claims police conducted a ‘get Pell operation’ and accuses magistrate Belinda Wallington of bias. She refuses to disqualify herself from the case. 

MAY 2018

* Ms Wallington orders Pell stand trial on some charges but throws out others.

* Pell formally pleads ‘not guilty’.

* Two trials are ordered, separating the 1970s and 1990s allegations.

* A Victorian County Court employee is sacked for looking up information on the Pell case.


* The 1990s ‘cathedral trial’ begins in the Victorian County Court in Melbourne.

* Pell pleads not guilty again to one charge of sexual penetration of a child under 16 and four of indecent acts with a child, over incidents involving two 13-year-old choirboys at St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996.


* The jury is discharged, unable to reach a verdict following a week of deliberation. Some jurors weep.


* A retrial begins. The jury aren’t told of the previous hung jury.


* Pell is found guilty on all charges by an unanimous jury.

* Mr Richter says Pell will appeal.

* Suppression orders prevent Australian media reporting the verdict but it spreads through international media within hours.



* Hearings begin ahead of the second trial. Prosecutors drop another charge

* An appeal is filed against the cathedral trial conviction.

* A County Court judge deems vital evidence inadmissible.

* Prosecutors withdraw all remaining charges against Pell and drop a second trial over allegations Pell indecently assaulted boys in Ballarat in the 1970s when he was a parish priest.

* Pell is taken into custody on February 27 as the plea hearing begins.

MARCH 2019

* Pell is sentenced by County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd to a maximum of six years in prison. He must serve at least three years and eight months in jail before being eligible for parole. He will be a registered sex offender for life.

JUNE 2019

* Court of Appeal considers Pell’s application to challenge his conviction on June 5 and 6.

AUGUST 21, 2019

* Court of Appeal upholds Pell’s conviction. 

SEPTEMBER 17, 2019

* Pell files for special leave to appeal to the High Court of Australia. 

MARCH 11-12, 2020:

 * The High Court convenes to hear the appeal.

APRIL 7, 2020:

* The High Court’s seven judges unanimously agree to dismiss all convictions and Pell is released from prison. 


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